Stalled Spiritual Growth: Part 2

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You may be among the increasingly large number of Christians today who feel that they are not growing significantly in their walk with God. Many describe their spiritual growth as stagnant or stalled.  They long to grow and may even be active in their church, but they do not know what to do about it. This is part 2 in a series in which I will be addressing:

  1. The problem underlying lack of spiritual growth
  2. The ultimate goal of our spiritual lives
  3. Suggestions for catalyzing growth

The Ultimate Goal of Our Spiritual Lives

Love Relationship with Jesus Christ

Because of the recent emphasis on activity and programs as a means of spiritual growth, church leaders have inadvertently conveyed to their members a misunderstanding of God’s primary goal for the life of a Christian. As R. Thomas Ashbrook points out, goals such as holiness, usefulness, wholeness and enlightened understanding are worthy and desirable but focus on the self, while the real goal of our Christian life is a love relationship with God. He states, “A restored relationship of love with God through Jesus Christ is more than a means to another end; it is the primary and foundational goal [emphasis added] of spiritual growth.”[1]

Focus on God

This goal of having a relationship with God is focused on God himself and what he is doing, not on what a person is accomplishing. The goal must not be activity and the goal cannot be accomplished in one’s own strength. Relationship is the goal. It is in this relationship of loving intimacy that Christians experience the transformation so longed for in the rest of their lives. Our role as believers is to position our hearts for God’s transforming work. Many believers have the misconception that spiritual growth and maturity can be measured in terms of activity or ministry effectiveness.

Becoming Like Jesus

Good works, fruit of the Spirit, and love of neighbor will always flow out of an authentic loving relationship with God. As a person grows closer to Jesus, he or she will become more like him as they cooperate with his work in them. Ashbrook’s definition of spiritual formation is helpful at this point because it connects the goal of the Christian life with the process and sets the stage for the suggestion that Scripture-based Reflective Prayer can be a catalyst for spiritual growth. He says that spiritual formation is “The process that takes place in us as the life of the Spirit of God transforms our life through deepening love and intimacy with Father, Son and Holy Spirit, remaking us in the likeness of Jesus Christ, in His love for the Father and the world.”[2]

Therefore, a growing love relationship with God has to be the essential characteristic and primary end of any personal spiritual practices that are employed. If the goal of spiritual practices is not growing in that love relationship, then a Christian’s best efforts to grow spiritually will result in disappointment instead of spiritual growth.

Taking it Deeper

How does your spiritual life demonstrate a priority of deepening your relationship with God?

What is the longing of your heart as you reflect on your current relationship with God?


[1] R. Thomas Ashbrook, Mansions of the Heart: Exploring the Seven Stages of Spiritual Growth (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2009), 26.

[2] Ashbrook, Mansions of the Heart, 32.

About Kathy Johnson

Katherine Johnson, D.Min. was born and raised in Oklahoma. She is a wife, mother, ecstatic grandmother of 3, author, teacher, and scuba-diver. Dr. Johnson was received into the Catholic Church in 2013 after 30 years as a Protestant missionary with Wycliffe Bible Translators. Her doctoral research focused on lectio divina as a catalyst for spiritual growth and her latest publications include 8 volumes in the Lectio Divina Catholic Prayer Journal Series. They can be purchased at: http://amzn.to/2qaYNbh She and her husband live in Dallas, Texas.

Posted on February 13, 2013, in Discipleship, Prayer, Spiritual Formation and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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